Enviro Updates

Sonoma County Conservation Council

A searchable archive of environmental news for Sonoma County

Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, Land Use, Sustainable LivingTags , , ,

Green rebuilding group to host Santa Rosa expo on Feb. 23

Kevin Fixler, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Like many, Sarah and Bruce King watched in horror as the wildfires burned through the North Bay in October, leaving them to wonder how they might aid the recovery when the smoke cleared.

The San Rafael couple have backgrounds in sustainable construction through a two-decade-old nonprofit called Ecological Building Network, or EBNet. So they were uniquely positioned to make an immediate impact. In late October, along with green building consultant Ann Edminster of Pacifica and Sustainable North Bay executive director Oren Wool of Graton, the Kings hosted a small dinner at their home in late October and got to work.

The group formed a new organization, Rebuild Green Coalition, and decided to hold a one-day workshop in December, inviting others with expertise to the table. The idea was to brainstorm ideas for how Sonoma County and other affected areas could tap new technologies and modern home designs that reduce carbon footprint to help communities recover with greater post-fire resiliency.

“It’s one thing to build green, it’s another for how to actually do it,” said Sarah King. “With the wildland-urban interface, which is big up toward the hills, how do we make that more resistant? That’s the name of the game in a lot of areas, especially where the fires took place, and what happened here is equally applicable for Southern California.”

Read more at http://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/7987771-181/green-rebuilding-group-to-host

Posted on Categories Air, Sustainable LivingTags , , , , ,

Want cleaner air? Try using less deodorant

Kendra Pierre-Louis and Hiroko Tabuchi, NEW YORK TIMES

The deodorants, perfumes and soaps that keep us smelling good are fouling the air with a harmful type of pollution — at levels as high as emissions from today’s cars and trucks.

That’s the surprising finding of a study published Thursday in the journal Science. Researchers found that petroleum-based chemicals used in perfumes, paints and other consumer products can, taken together, emit as much air pollution in the form of volatile organic compounds, or V.O.C.s, as motor vehicles do.

The V.O.C.s interact with other particles in the air to create the building blocks of smog, namely ozone, which can trigger asthma and permanently scar the lungs, and another type of pollution known as PM2.5, fine particles that are linked to heart attacks, strokes and lung cancer.

Smog is generally associated with cars, but since the 1970s regulators have pushed automakers to invest in technologies that have substantially reduced V.O.C. emissions from automobiles. So the rising share of air pollution caused by things like pesticides and hair products is partly an effect of cars getting cleaner. But that breathing room has helped scientists see the invisible pollutants that arise from a spray of deodorant or a dollop of body lotion.

Read more at https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/16/climate/perfume-pollution-smog.html

Posted on Categories WildlifeTags ,

Scientists: Earth endangered by new strain of fact-resistant humans

Andy Borowitz, THE NEW YORKER

Scientists have discovered a powerful new strain of fact-resistant humans who are threatening the ability of Earth to sustain life, a sobering new study reports.

The research, conducted by the University of Minnesota, identifies a virulent strain of humans who are virtually immune to any form of verifiable knowledge, leaving scientists at a loss as to how to combat them.

“These humans appear to have all the faculties necessary to receive and process information,” Davis Logsdon, one of the scientists who contributed to the study, said. “And yet, somehow, they have developed defenses that, for all intents and purposes, have rendered those faculties totally inactive.”

More worryingly, Logsdon said, “As facts have multiplied, their defenses against those facts have only grown more powerful.”

While scientists have no clear understanding of the mechanisms that prevent the fact-resistant humans from absorbing data, they theorize that the strain may have developed the ability to intercept and discard information en route from the auditory nerve to the brain. “The normal functions of human consciousness have been completely nullified,” Logsdon said.

While reaffirming the gloomy assessments of the study, Logsdon held out hope that the threat of fact-resistant humans could be mitigated in the future. “Our research is very preliminary, but it’s possible that they will become more receptive to facts once they are in an environment without food, water, or oxygen,” he said.

From The Borowitz Reporthttps://www.newyorker.com/humor/borowitz-report/scientists-earth-endangered-by-new-strain-of-fact-resistant-humans

Posted on Categories Agriculture/Food System, Land Use, Sustainable LivingTags , ,

Meet the new crop of urbanites-turned-farmers in Sonoma County

Cynthia Sweeney, NORTH BAY BUSINESS JOURNAL

People who endure the stress of city life may dream of a life in the country, but not many take the leap.

Two and half years ago, Lori and Chris Melançon did.

The couple had initially purchased 12 acres of dormant pasture in Sonoma County, as an investment. Then it “called to them” with visions of farming vegetables and raising pigs, goats, and chickens. So they left lucrative jobs in San Francisco, Chris at a startup and Lori at a cancer-focused pharmaceutical company, and started LOLA Sonoma Farms.

“The entrepreneurial thing for us (in the city) started to fade,” said Chris. “In the early stage of this venture we realized the potential on the land and the entrepreneurial spark emerged again. We had the opportunity to take a small part of Sonoma County and show people — just as those who are interested in wine tasting — what it takes to grow sustainable, organic food. To have a lasting impact. And it doesn’t hurt that we’re outside in the fresh air and sunshine.”

Read more at http://www.northbaybusinessjournal.com/northbay/sonomacounty/7949227-181/urban-farming-organic-sonoma

Posted on Categories Sustainable LivingTags , , ,

Post-fire health survey now open to North Bay residents

Mary Callahan, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

For more about the UC Davis study, click here

Researchers at UC Davis hope to enlist thousands of Northern California residents in an online survey designed to gather the personal experiences, household circumstances and health effects from devastating wildfires that burned over 245,000 acres in six counties and killed 44 people.

About 140 people signed up in advance to take the survey, which went live Thursday (February 1).

But the push to get the word out is just beginning, with particular focus in hard-hit Sonoma and Napa counties, said Irva Hertz-Picciotto, an epidemiologist and director of the UC Davis Environmental Health Sciences Center.

“If you’re living there, you’re living it,” said Hertz-Picciotto, the research leader.

Residents of other affected counties, including Mendocino, which suffered significant losses, are urged to take part, as is anyone else affected by the fire and smoke that plagued the region for weeks beginning Oct. 8.

Researchers said the survey should take about 20 to 30 minutes to complete.

Posted on Categories Land Use, Sustainable LivingTags , ,

Owner of Journey’s End mobile home park in Santa Rosa won’t rebuild after Tubbs fire

Julie Johnson, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

The fire-ravaged Journey’s End mobile home park will not reopen, but its owner is seeking to partner with a developer to build an apartment complex on the north Santa Rosa property, residents learned this weekend.

The family that owns the 13.5-acre site at Mendocino Avenue and Fountaingrove Parkway is working with nonprofit Burbank Housing to explore the feasibility of redeveloping the property into a mixture of affordable and market-rate apartments, Burbank chief executive officer Larry Florin said Sunday.

“We see this as an opportunity to preserve affordable housing but also to create something more permanent,” Florin said. “There’s a housing crisis, obviously, in Sonoma County.”

The decision not to rebuild throws former residents into another bout of uncertainty, with the hope of someday returning to their economical, tight-knit community now gone.

The mobile home park, a refuge for low-income and senior residents for nearly 60 years, has remained closed since the October wildfires. The Tubbs fire destroyed nearly three quarters of the 160 coaches on the property, killed two of its residents, incinerated its electrical and gas systems and irreparably contaminated the well supplying water to the community.

Read more at http://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/7972490-181/owner-of-journeys-end-mobile?utm_source=home

Posted on Categories TransportationTags , ,

How Lyft and Uber can fix—not cause—congestion

Dan Sperling and Austin Brown, PLANETIZEN

Studies of New York and other cities, including by our colleagues at UC Davis, suggest that Uber, Lyft, and other app-based car services are increasing congestion by facilitating a shift away from mass transit. That shift is to be expected. App-based car services offer users many of the same advantages as mass transit (the ability to avoid parking, the opportunity to travel without a driver’s license, etc.) at an increased level of comfort and convenience, while remaining relatively affordable. Of course Uber and Lyft will skim travelers from transit.

Though app-based car services may increase congestion in this limited regard, there is even greater—yet largely ignored—potential for such services to reduce net congestion by facilitating multi-passenger pooling. So far, pooling has not caught on widely. Since the 1970s, hundreds of billions of dollars have been invested into building a web of carpool lanes in most major U.S. cities. Yet carpooling has steadily declined from about 20% of commute trips in the 1970s to less than 10% now (see figure). Today, each car on the road in the United States contains an average of only 1.6 passengers, and the majority of the time vehicles are occupied only by the driver.

Read more at https://www.planetizen.com/features/97135-how-lyft-and-uber-can-fix-not-cause-congestion?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=dlvr-twitter&utm_campaign=newfeed

Posted on Categories Forests, Sustainable LivingTags , ,

Op-Ed: A stark reminder of the importance of controlled burning

Jim Doerksen,  THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

My wife and I live on a beautiful LandPaths property on St. Helena Road in northeast Sonoma County. For more than 50 years, we have managed the property for timber production of about 50 percent Douglas firs and 50 percent redwoods and includes many native heritage specimens of hardwood trees. We have managed this forest to be as fire resistant as possible by pruning lower branches, thinning the trees, and burning brush piles.

One very important issue that seems to have been overlooked is the part played by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. This is the agency that notifies the public when it is a “spare the air day.” The rules and regulations are daunting and virtually impossible to adhere to, especially in forest management.

This is an excerpt from an e-mail I sent to the air quality district in June 2016 in which we expressed our concern that air quality district standards were having an adverse effect on forestry cleanup “and will probably result in a mass uncontrollable fire” in Sonoma County.

“Not enough is being done about cleaning up all the brush and dying and fallen trees. To make matters worse, we have had a huge outbreak of bark beetle and sudden oak death. To add insult to injury, PG&E, in its great wisdom, has cut thousands of trees under the transmission lines and has left them to decay or burn.”

The analysis post-fire from CalFire agrees with our opinion as being correct. The fires have done a thorough job of cleaning up the forest floor, but frequent fires are necessary to prevent build-up of tree debris, weeds and brush.

Read more at http://www.pressdemocrat.com/opinion/7972381-181/close-to-home-a-stark

Posted on Categories Agriculture/Food System, WaterTags , ,

Jerry Brown officially downsizes Delta tunnel plan. But can he sell one tunnel?

Dale Kasler, THE SACRAMENTO BEE

The troubled Delta tunnels project was officially downsized Wednesday, as Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration announced it would attempt to build a single tunnel in its effort to re-engineer California’s elaborate water-delivery system.

Unable to secure enough money from California’s water agencies for the original twin tunnels concept, the California Department of Water Resources said it would now try to build the project in phases: one tunnel now and a second tunnel years down the road.

The long-awaited announcement doesn’t appear to immediately solve the financial questions looming over the project, known officially as California WaterFix.

A letter to water agencies from DWR Director Karla Nemeth says the first tunnel would cost $10.7 billion. That’s much less than the price tag for building two tunnels, now officially pegged at $16.3 billion. But the one-tunnel option also is considerably more expensive than the estimated $6 billion to $6.5 billion that’s been pledged so far by participating south-of-Delta water agencies.

Read more at http://www.sacbee.com/news/state/california/water-and-drought/article198973869.html

Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, Sonoma CoastTags , ,

Oil drilling protest in Sacramento to precede hearing on Trump offshore plan

Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

To attend the protest, take the bus!

A throng of protesters, including state lawmakers and North Coast activists, is expected to rally in Sacramento preceding the Trump administration’s only California public meeting on a controversial offshore oil drilling plan covering most of the nation’s coastal waters.

State Sen. Mike McGuire, D-Healdsburg, said he expects more than 1,000 people to attend the anti-drilling rally at 1:30 p.m. Thursday on the north steps of the Capitol Building. The demonstration is sponsored by a coalition called Protect the Pacific.

Senate Democrats Scott Wiener of San Francisco, Henry Stern of Canoga Park and Assembly Democrats Jim Wood of Healdsburg and Monique Limon of Santa Barbara and Republican Brian Maienschein of San Diego plan to attend.

Following the rally, participants will march three blocks to the location of a Bureau of Ocean Management public meeting on the offshore oil drilling plan released last month by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. It ignited complaints from federal, state and local officials on both coasts and across the nation.

The meeting runs from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Tsakopoulos Library Galleria, 828 I St.

Zinke’s plan calls for 47 potential sales of oil drilling rights from 2019 to 2024, with six along the California coast, where energy development has faced bipartisan opposition since the Santa Barbara oil spill in 1969.

Read more at http://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/7941235-181/oil-drilling-protest-in-sacramento